May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Thousands of people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, and many have struggled for years with the long-term and sometimes devastating physical and emotional effects of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the number of reported cases of Lyme disease in the United States has tripled since the 1990s.”
“Whether it is acute or chronic, Lyme disease causes suffering, and ACT, an evidence-based, scientifically driven approach, can help people change their experience of their illness while they work towards getting well.”
Psychology Professor Joseph J. Trunzo's new book, “Living Beyond Lyme: Reclaim Your Life From Lyme Disease and Chronic Illness,” focuses on helping people to live meaningfully with the disease by using mindfulness and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) approaches. “Whether it is acute or chronic, Lyme disease causes suffering, and ACT, an evidence-based, scientifically driven approach, can help people change their experience of their illness while they work towards getting well,” says Trunzo.
Here are some strategies from Professor Trunzo for improving quality of life when coping with Lyme disease and other difficult life challenges.
- Notice your thoughts, but don’t let them rule the day: We tend to believe everything that runs through our minds, but we need to pay more attention to what we tell ourselves and notice what we are really thinking.
- If a thought isn’t useful, disengage: Rather than arguing about whether or not a particular thought is true or false, just ask yourself if engaging in that thought at that time is useful or not in moving you forward in a valued direction. For example, if you think “I’ll never get well,” arguing whether or not this is true isn’t really helpful. Let that thought go and engage with more functional thinking about more meaningful things in the present moment.
- The more you try to control what you feel, the more you will feel it: We often get ourselves into more trouble by trying not to feel things than if we just allowed ourselves to feel them and move though the emotions, even the painful ones. The struggle will just keep it with you longer.
- Identify what’s most meaningful to you and engage with it: Lyme can turn your life upside down, but it will also clarify what’s really important to you. Recognize what these things are for you (family, work, friends, leisure, spirituality), and take note of them. These become your anchors for making decisions about what you do.
- Any engagement is better than no engagement: At any given point, you are either moving towards what matters most to you or away from it. You may not be able to engage as much as you’d like, but every little bit is helpful. This includes rest!
- Educate yourself and never stop trying to get well: The Lyme controversy is well documented. Educate yourself and get treatment that is right for you. Keep fighting to get well while you are coping with being ill.
Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., is a leading private university offering an innovative and uniquely integrated business and liberal arts education. The University's 3,700 undergraduate and postgraduate students study in an intensive and immersive learning environment that has been purpose-built for high achievement. Bryant’s groundbreaking academic programs have been nationally recognized by organizations including the Davis Educational Foundation and Hanover Research. Founded in 1863, Bryant is recognized as a leader in international education and regularly receives top rankings from U.S. News and World Report, College Factual/U.S.A. Today, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and Barron’s. Visit innovation.bryant.edu.